First New Housing Legislation for 2019

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It seems that the first new housing legislation of the year will soon be upon us, with the implementation of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill legislation.

I first spoke about the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill at the beginning of 2018. Karen Buck MP had introduced it as a private members Bill in July 2017. This had its second reading on 19th January 2018. It has now received Royal Assent, a mere 18 months after the bill was introduced. Long awaited, will it have the effect that is desired when it finally comes into force? This will not be until 3 months after it has been passed, that is 20th March 2019.

Despite the housing legislation in the Rent Act and the Housing Acts 1988 and 1996, Ms Buck felt that additional measures were needed to address the conditions in which some tenants found they lived. It will amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1984. We have become used to the private sector landlord being blamed for poor conditions, but it seems calls for equalisation of both private and social sector have been taken on board, as this housing legislation will include the social landlord. 

Any property that does not comply with Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) can have the tenants take legal action in courts, as properties should be fit for purpose; failure to reach this standard would constitute a breach of contract. As we know, the Courts are not generally sympathetic to landlords; would we see the same results if a social landlord was under the spotlight?

I do not expect that many private sector landlords would be intimidated by the new regulations; there has been enough warning, enough talk about what is required by private sector tenants. Can the social sector be as confident?

Social tenants who have had a lengthy tenancy may be more casual about property standards and, though the landlord cannot be held responsible for damage the tenants have done, no housing association or local authority wants their properties inspecting because someone has made a complaint. As with the private sector landlord, investigations into complaints will take a long time and cost a considerable amount so may not be wholeheartedly welcome by any landlords.

Heather Wheeler MP, yet another Minister for Housing, said: ‘Everyone deserves a safe and decent place to live, regardless of whether you own your home or rent it. That’s why government has introduced a range of measures to help ensure that people who are renting have good quality and well-maintained properties to call home. This new law is a further step to ensure that tenants have the decent homes they deserve.’ 

A laudable sentiment; which has been heard time and again over the last few years as more and more housing legislation is introduced for exactly the same reason – that there are issues with standards which need to be addressed. Yet despite this, the same arguments are made.

To change what is happening in both social and private sector properties, more resources are needed to proactively look for the problems. It is too much to expect tenants to make the complaints. They have low expectations, feel frightened of making complaints. Tenants will often feel vulnerable. Housing legislation changes will take a long time to make them feel less so.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

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